Retired Edmonton-area teacher found not guilty of indecent assault

·2 min read

A retired Edmonton-area school teacher has been found not guilty of indecently assaulting one of his female students in the 1975/76 school year.

David O'Reilly, a physical education teacher at Ellerslie Campus school at the time, was accused of kissing and fondling the Grade 9 student.

The complainant, now 59-years-old and living in New Zealand, cannot be identified due to a court-ordered publication ban.

Testifying by WebEx, she told the court that on one occasion, O'Reilly kissed her while he had her pinned against a wall. Another time, she said, he fondled her while she was sitting on his lap in his gym office.

Crown prosecutor Jim Stewart urged Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench Justice Thomas Rothwell to believe the woman's version of events. He called her a "careful and thoughtful witness."

But defence lawyer Dino McLaughlin argued the complainant's evidence was not reliable and thought O'Reilly should be found not guilty.

In his decision Friday, Rothwell said he was concerned about inconsistencies in the woman's testimony during which she admitted she had a foggy memory about some details, was unsure about timelines and, in some cases, made assumptions.

Nathan Gross/CBC
Nathan Gross/CBC

For example, the woman thought she had no further contact with O'Reilly after school ended in June, but testified she and a friend were invited to watch the 1976 Olympics with O'Reilly and his wife at a cabin they owned.

The Olympics were in July of that year and O'Reilly's now ex-wife testified they never owned a recreational property.

Rothwell was also concerned that the woman discussed the case with a friend who was called to testify for the Crown. Neither lawyer suggested the women colluded, but the judge had concerns about the likelihood of the complainant's testimony being tainted, especially given the passage of time.

"I have significant concerns about the reliability of her evidence," Rothwell said. "I do not believe she was intending to mislead the court; however, I am not able to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt the events occurred as alleged."

In October, O'Reilly was convicted of indecently assaulting a different female student at the same school in 1980. He was given a suspended sentence plus 18 months probation and was also placed on the national sex offender registry.

O'Reilly is appealing the conviction. McLaughlin has filed a notice of appeal calling the verdict unreasonable. He argues O'Reilly was denied the right to a fair trial because the judge was biased toward him.

Failing an appeal, O'Reilly wants Alberta's highest court to order a new trial by judge and jury.